Music videos are so 80s/90s, right? They belong with the era when MTV screened wall-to-wall vids instead of 'reality' TV? Try telling that to the millions who bought Gangnam Style; were they really simply loving the music? 1.6bn (and still climbing) have viewed the video on YT, not to mention the many re-makes (school eg, eg2), viral ads + celeb link-ups (even political protest in Seoul) - and it doesn't matter how legit it is, this nightmare for daydream Beliebers is making a lot of money, even from the parodies + dislikes. All this for a simple dance track that wouldn't have sounded out of place in 1990 ... but had a fun vid. This meme itself was soon displaced by the Harlem Shake. Music vids even cause diseases it seems!
This blog explores every aspect of this most postmodern of media formats, including other print-based promo tools used by the industry, its fast-changing nature, + how fans/audiences create/interact. Posts are primarily written with Media students/educators in mind. Please acknowledge the blog author if using any resources from this blog - Mr Dave Burrowes

Monday, 29 November 2010

Blog tasks guide [draft]

Typing up a complete guide will take some time, so in the meantime here's a list of a few blog posts (and therefore tasks) to be considering. The idea here is to collaborate more, but to clearly identify individual contributions - agree a colour code system where the writing/contribution of each person in a group is consistently denoted by a clear colour heading. You wouldn't each be doing each of these from scratch, but agreeing within a group who tackles what...

  1. THE TASK(S!!)

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Kanye West: 35min vid

The idea of an extended music vid, effectively as a short film isn't new - John Landis' work for Michael Jackson's Thriller itself built on The Beatles' films, which could be viewed as a series of sketched built around multiple prototype music vids. Kanye West's effort, the 35min Runaway, has split web opinion, currently accruing 29,055 likes/5,101 dislikes after 5,389,189 views at and another 28,165 likes/2,890 dislikes from 6,331,377 viewings at (just some of the uploads on YouTube alone; its also on his official site and many more).
The bottom line - its working wonders as a promotional tool. even includes a live twitter feed on what people are saying about it, stark evidence of its impact.

Lady Gaga via Leeds - the Bad Romance meme

Noticed more parodies and even a Lg make-up how-to; links, not embeds, follow:
(Bad Romance Parody - gets a little crude towards the end)
(LadyGagaVEVO - lots more links; this is behind-the-scenes of Telephone vid)
(LadyG make-up how-to)

YouTube is opening up opportunities for all sorts of new acts; these guys have hit the charts with their Gillian mcKeith Song after getting played by C.Moyles and others; here is Brett Domino's take on Bad Romance, one of the 1st videos we looked at this year:

At some point I'll add in notes from work on LadyG, but for now a few further examples of how - just like the Britney track - this single has provoked a range of online responses from widely divergent genres.
This idea, of taking music from one (typically non-credible, poppy) genre and transplanting it to a radically differing, essentially binary opposite (viewed by its fans as highly credible, complex music) genre is not new (hip hop acts have been trawling through all sorts of unlikely sources for decades, with a sample from a 50s track, Apache, by instrumental act The Shadows forming the bedrock of many early rap tunes). The rise and ever-increasing accessibility of digital media, and the web as a carrier for the output of digitally produced media, has seen this mushroom.
Another iconic example: Kylie Minogue. She has skilfully repositioned herself away from the bubblegum image she started out with, partially through a capacity to pastiche herself; refract herself through a postmodern lens - a great example being her reading her famously simplistic debut single's lyrics as mock-poetry:

...But back to LadyG...
Search YouTube for the track and you'll find a plethora of versions; the following are just a small sample:

These guys are unashamedly trying to use LadyG's colossal fanbase to generate interest - without the keywords lady gaga bad romance its unlikely many people would ever come across them...

There are many more: gothic, power metal, death metal drum tracks ... the list goes on
Have you come across (m)any tracks that have generated so many covers? (Add a comment with info if so!)

'Video Exclusive' on C4

Interesting to see music vids retain some allure even for our terrestrial broadcasters: C4 often do this for post-watershed vids too, but I notice in today's schedules a programme simply listed as "Video Exclusive", described as The Wanted. Exclusive first play of boy band The Wanted's next single Lose My Mind.
Once again, this forms just part of a wider media strategy: The Wanted are also due to appear on tonight's X Factor.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Vids for older tracks: Beatles

The Beatles have provided the perfect example of how record companies are looking to wring sales out of their back catalogue (cf. the long tail theory). They timed the week the X Factor had a Beatles theme to coincide with their finally allowing iTunes to release their back catalogue - but only at a higher price than anyone else. They've released a series of teaser vids for many of these, one eg below:

See also

Barbra Streisand

By a curious coincidence, the BarbraS track was used over a montage at the end of the 9-930 Autumnwatch show on BBC2 tonight...

Monday, 15 November 2010

13B Lip Sync track

We had 5 tracks pitched for filming a music vid: Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine"; Mike Posner's "Cooler Than Me"; Duck Sauce's "Barbra Streisand"; a Paolo Nutini track; and Taylor Swift's "You Belong To Me". The "Barbra Streisand" track was setlled on, with planning now underway for the shoot. The official music video is embedded below (from, not YouTube, which I think you can access under student logins):

Duck Sauce - Barbra Streisand
You'll see the design of this vid could easily inspire tribute versions, an attractive idea for most acts as this acts rather nicely as a means of generating viral marketing: marketing the band do not pay for, and which does not have the appearance of an advertising campaign. The success of the Yeo Valley (milk/dairy company) rap, (one of several similar ideas: see this Ontario vid, + rather awful raps such as this), played exclusively in the X Factor ad breaks (at a campaign cost of £5m) has worked well like this - the YouTube video has been widely emailed and the company have been 'forced' by Facebook campaigns etc to release the song as an Xmas single. The "Barbra Streisand" video also features a daft dance move, another trick which can help encourage a video to be reconstructed, reflimed and posted (eg as 'responses' to YouTube uploads) online, a tactic used as far back as Adam and the Ants' "Prince Charming" video.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Artist2: Cher

See Chris' blog for his PowerPoint and post.

Cher's career in a way reflects the key trend in the contemporary music industry: long-established artists maintaining an older audience picked up over their careers whilst also seeing the digital revolution helping them to gain a younger, secondary audience.
Cher is notorious for her drastic usage of plastic surgery to defy the aging process, becoming the oldest woman, at 52, to reach no.1 in the contemporary charts with 1998's "Believe". Her work, her very body, is highly contestible, and would evoke radically different responses from a feminist and a post-feminist, arguments we looked at with Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" video. Her hyper-femininity being achieved through such artificial means also brings to mind Judith Butler's provocative concept of the performativity of gender: the idea that gender does not exist in nature, but is simply a concept we learn to apply and 'perform'. This has made Butler an important thinker within 'queer theory', but could also help explain why Cher has attained iconic status within the gay community.
(This last phrase, gay community, itself contains ideological values: are all gay people the same (homogenous)?! Our language, especially as expressed through our media, are constantly loaded with subtle value judgements we tend to think little about. When an idea is seen as common sense; that it would be ridiculous to even question it, we say that it has achieved hegemonic status ... a concept we'll explore in more detail later in A2)
Over her long career Cher has created some hallmark singles:
  • 1989's "If I Could Turn Back Time" was instantly banned by MTV for her risque criss-crossed belts costume (and features unsubtle phallic imagery: Cher sits astride the long artillery barrels [here we've just applied some basic Freudian psychoanalysis, a common approach within Media and especially Film Studies]). The ambiguity of her gender performance, to use Butler's concept, is seen in the juxtaposition of her feminine long hair and thickly applied make-up, plus her semi-nude attire (Laura Mulvey's male gaze...), with her tattoos and manly biker's jacket. The heterosexual eroticism of the video, however, is somewhat undermined by the campness of the 'in the navy' backdrop!
  • 1998's "Believe" brought the vocoder into mainstream pop, later to be (ab)used by the likes of Victoria Beckham. This intentionally distorts the voice, creating a robotic, mechanistic effect - not to be confused with auto-tuning, source of a recent X Factor scandal, which computer processes any voice to put it into the correct key and essentially can make any terrible singer sound quite good and in tune! Again, Cher's physicality is key to the video. The nightclub setting also takes on a camp aspect, as does her headdress, which helps her appeal not just to a mainstream pop audience but also a gay audience. Explicitly referencing gay culture has been a strategy used to gain greater credibility by Madonna as well, who, for example, took 'voguing' from gay clubs onto MTV and into mainstream consciousness, and has worked with provocative gay artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe. (He caused huge controversy with works such as 'Piss Christ'; using such an artist helps Madonna render his edginess as part of her image)

This video is perhaps not as iconic as the other two, but is interesting in itself (good choice Chris!). Again, notwithstanding her determination to achieve an ideal of feminine beauty (feminists have written about how our misogynistic media have pushed women to aspire take up less space in starving themselves and inflict grievous injury upon themselves in the way of plastic surgery - not an analysis which most post-feminists would necessarily concur with), there is an ambiguity to her gender performance. Her deep voice sits somewhat at odds with the woman whose legs seem to be the focus of the prevailing long shot on her. She is first seen in a slow pan up and over her body, a veritable caress from the camera. She is cleverly affecting a humbleness which helps to appeal to a mainstream American audience: sitting on the steps of a greyhound bus, part of the iconography of America, familiar to a global audience as well through countless TV shows, films and music videos (remember Axl Rose stepping off a Greyhound bus in the diegetic intro to "Welcome to the Jungle"?)
Black and white is used to affect a timeless, classic feel, with the shots of the diner, seemingly featuring a youthful Cher, signifying the 50s, a period many Americans look to with real affection: this was pre-Vietnam War, and seen as a golden age when there seemed to be a clear set of universal values. This is a fantasy, but a powerful one. Weezer's "Buddy Holly" is a great example of a postmodern text which reflects this: it plants the band inside footage from Happy Days, a 70s TV show which affectionately reconstructed the 50s featuring a 90s band! Its a good example of director Spike Jonze's style (and is featured on the 2DVD set of his work now in the Library and available to loan!).

Its not often I'll embed anything related to the loutish Mr Moyles, but here's an example of the technology in action

Coursework Pitches

This is homework for Monday 22nd November. We may still be finishing up on the lip-sync practice, but should be ready to deliver these for the 22nd.

See the earlier post for more on the practice of pitching.

By now we've looked at a wide range of music videos from different artists, eras, directors and genres. We need now to start planning our actual productions, the 1st step being coming up with and pitching an idea.
I cannot stress enough how important it is you make every effort to create a convincing pitch no matter how much you may have been discussing one particular track/idea with a classmate. If your pitch is considered to be unconcvincing, you will be asked to re-do it until you have presented a pitch which can compete with the others presented.

If your pitch does persuade others to follow your idea, you've set yourself up as director within the production team, and should take a leading role in the key creative decisions that emerge. A producer, to deal with logistics; cinematographer, to lead on shot selection and filming (and perhaps mise-en-scene); and an editor are other key roles that can be divided up.
I will consider groups of 4 given the amount of work involved in creating a convincing music video - think roughly double the number of shots you took for your AS productions! - but only if individual roles and responsibilities are clearly defined so that individual contributions are clear, evident and easy to track.

Once we're through the pitches and have formed groups, further research and planning can be much more tightly focussed on genre/s, specific bands, directors and styles (see the blog entry on The Pixies for examples of the minimalist approach for instance). You will be issued with a detailed A2 Coursework Guide on Monday 29th Nov which sets out a list of possible blog posts. Central to your Research and Planning, as with your AS work, is the need to be able to explore how your creation uses the codes and conventions of real media texts, including a firm grasp of the institutional contexts of production, the impact of new media and digitisation on the industry (production, distribution and exhibition), and the blurring of the lines between 'UGC' and professional productions, as well as the media language used.

As has been flagged up, I highly recommend the Money For Nothing book on the history of the music vid, which also contains a lot of useful analysis (plus very many specific examples you wouldn't otherwise be aware of) of trends, styles and movements within the format.

Some guidelines for your pitch:
  • you have just 90secs to pitch in
  • up to 3 mins will then be allowed for Q+A (we want to fit all in to enable time for decisions to be made, though decisions can be deferred if more time is needed - I'll film your pitches and hopefully upload to YouTube that evening)
  • track should be short-ish! The longer the track, the more filming/editing required
  • there cannot be any swearing or strong sexual references
  • you must have considered the core and secondary audiences you are targeting
  • location is often key - can you gain access to the location/s you have in mind?
  • try and scout these out in advance and provide imagery to illustrate
  • comparability: which existing vids can you compare your idea to? (helps your audience to get a handle on what you're thinking of) Whether its a film or music video pitch, its always crucial to make some comparisons
  • go multimedia: have you got an mp4/mpg you can use alongside your basic pitch? perhaps you can use the annotation tools available within YouTube when you upload a video?
  • you could be ambitious and incorporate an animatic (frames from a storyboard uploaded to film, with you commenting over these)
  • don't discount the various ideas you pitched for Cars, People are Strange etc - many of these were quite excellent and would work brilliantly as actual videos
  • as you're preparing your pitch, keep asking yourself if your planned content will help persuade a sceptical audience to want to work on your idea
  • try to anticipate questions
  • you could try to engage and draw in your audience with a question of your own!
  • read over the marking criteria in advance; you could flag up how your idea will hit all the points covered in the mark scheme
  • be concise
  • be precise
  • employ media language!!!

LipSync Practice Pitch

This is homework for Monday 15th November.

Your challenge is to pick a track, without strong language or strong sexual references; think up a concept or narrative approach that can be shot in and around school; and pitch your vision to the class.
You have just 60secs in which to pitch, which includes any snippets of the track you wish to play - we do need to hear some of it for your pitch to make any sense!
Depending on your own views, each class will pick either one or two of these to film, which we'll look to do in lesson time. Your idea must be achievable!
Whichever pitches are successful, everyone will deliver some lines to camera to gain some lip-sync practice (even if you personally won't appear in your own actual video its vital you can empathise with the challenges your performers will face, and can provide clear direction to help), so no matter how abstract your idea, make sure it does incorporate some singing to camera! (and yes, that does mean instrumentals are ruled out)

(A 'pitch' is an occasion when producers briefly summarize their proposal to busy executives (sometimes to the band themselves), in the hope of winning a commission/the contract for producing the video. It is always a sales pitch!)
Read more on pitching: guide; actor Peter Capaldi; wiki;   

You can also see some examples from Latymer students doing just this here.

Most of you will be familiar with The Apprentice, which seems to feature a bunch of cretins proving how awful they are at business and dealing with human beings. Each week they have to pitch to sell some product ... and thats exactly what you're doing: selling your idea. Here's an example from The Apprentice:

And here's a satire on pitching - NB: contains some strong language